Women’s Fashions of the 19th Century – Regency and Victorian Clothing Styles

Guest blogger Inez Calender

Women’s fashions of the 19th century can be divided into two basic categories – Regency and Victorian. The Regency era ushered in the century and is named after George Prince Regent of Britain who took over his father’s duties after George III fell into mental illness. The Victorian era refers to the time during the reign of Queen Victoria, crowned in 1837. The Victorian period of style lasted for the rest of the 19th century.

Women’s fashion of the Regency era is typified by the Empire style dress; a high waisted dress made of lightweight fabrics based on classical Greek design. By 1825, waistlines lowered toward the natural waist and bodices became stiff, losing the softness of the early part of the century. Women began to wear corsets, a tight fitting undergarment that lasted throughout the 1800’s. Toward the end of the Regency era of fashion, skirts took on an A-line or bell shape with ruffles, puffs, and padding at the hem in a look that is known as Romantic style, or Regency Romantic.

The advent of the tight fitting bodice and the accentuation of a tiny waist ushered in a new shift in skirts. Skirts took on a dome shape created by cartridge pleats so that the skirt stood out from the body. In the mid 1800’s, skirts widened, and were supported by petti-coats. Women took to wearing several layers of petticoats to attain greater volume. Crinoline were a form of petti-coat made of a stiff, heavy fabric. The crinoline cage created even more volume and characterized mid century Victorian fashion with the huge skirts pictured in films like “Gone With the Wind.”

Later in the century, skirts began to slim down. An over-skirt was added and drawn back create a puffed effect and draped down the back. This accentuation of the posterior was highlighted by a bustle. A bustle is a pad at the rear, supported by a waistband The exaggerated fashion trend increased in proportion until skirts took on a large, shelf-like appearance in 1880.

Toward the end of the 19th century, skirts slimmed down. Sleeves increased in size, ballooning at the top and tapering toward the wrists in what is called a leg-of-mutton sleeve. The corset fell out of favor, criticized as being unhealthy and unnatural to be replaced by the S bend corset, or health corset which created a new silhouette and new look for the Edwardian Age.

For more information on Regency fashions, read this article that includes lovely pictures – http://hubpages.com/hub/Fashion-History-Early-19th-Century-Regency-and-Romantic-Styles

For more information on Victorian fashion including pictures and fashion details read – http://hubpages.com/hub/Fashion-History-Victorian-Costume-and-Design-Trends-1837-1900-With-Pictures


Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Inez_Calender/424138

Sense and Sensibility (In Regency Underclothes)

LR BurkardSome authors (not to mention book covers) would have you believe that to dress in Regency style was to be overly immodest or even exposed.

I beg to differ.

The favorite fabric for a Regency gown was undeniably light-weight, being muslin-a very thin, soft cotton. Yet the Regency lady was no more exposed than she wanted to be. An amusing scene from the 1996 BBC “Pride and Prejudice” (Starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) is when Lydia has rushed into the hallway wearing only a chemise. The strait-laced Mr. Collins is forced to pass her on his way to the staircase, I believe, and is clearly scandalized. The scene is quite funny, and Lydia herself cannot stop laughing. But what did he find so shocking?

Was it the amount of cleavage in plain sight? Hardly, for a perfectly respectable evening dress could reveal as much. It was more likely the idea of having seen a young lady in her “underclothing” which unsettled poor Mr. Collins.

Half a century earlier, such a sight would likely not have brought the slightest blush to even the most prudish, for during the 18th century, women were required to wear layers and layers of clothing consisting largely of underclothes.

Chemises, stockings, stays (corsets), hoops, panniers, and often many layers of petticoats. By the time of the Regency, costume had undergone a downright shocking reversal, ( beginning in France, which in turn was taking its ideas from classical Greek and Roman styles of antiquity), causing the heavy layers of underclothing to be discarded.

In France, women’s underclothing was in danger of becoming downright extinct–among the upper class, in particular. When this “Empire Style” crossed the channel into England, however, it became less risque, thanks to the more modest English, but the ideal of a long, straight dress, revealing the human figure beneath had still to be maintained. All those petticoats from the previous century, in short, had to go. Same for the long corsets, the hoops, the panniers.

What remained was a simple chemise, often accompanied by a short corset which served to raise and support the bust (precursor to the modern bra), which in turn might be accompanied by a petticoat. This is where personal taste came into play. The long, straight line of the figure was the fashionable ideal and no bulky under-garments could be allowed to get in the way, but ladies could, and did, wear underclothing and the petticoat never disappeared completely from the female wardrobe. The Regency is famous in caricature for the lack of female undergarments, but this propensity of exhibitionism was far less common than the cartoonists’ of the day would have you think.

Most women, like Jane Austen herself– wore sufficient undergarments, and, indeed, dressed quite modestly. The Empire day-dress used sundry manner of textile trickery to conceal the bust (such as, frills, lace, ruches and ruffs, and even light spencers) so that day garments were in particular extremely modest. The few who made do without the short corset and petticoat were probably given the most attention by newspapermen simply because they were, well, newspaperMEN!

Evening dress was more revealing, requiring a square, low bodice, but women were free to use shawls, scarves, feathers, veils and what-not (all of which came in an amazing array of sizes and styles, especially as the Regency wore on), so that they could easily appear more modestly if they so desired. Even to modern eyes, however, bodices from the day are revealing; but again this was mostly the case for evening wear, and more formal occasions. The scantily clad lady sitting in the library reading just wasn’t the way it went, no matter how romance novel designers choose to portray it!

Conclusion: There have always been people of poor taste, then no less than now. It was they who used the fashion “to an extreme”, who did not wear adequate underclothing, and who, unfortunately, represent the era to some minds. Even drawers were worn by women as early as 1804, (though admittedly not yet popular. They were taken from men’s clothing and considered coarse and crude). Princess Charlotte was discovered

to use them, however, which (despite shocking the older set), did much to popularize them with the masses, who adored her.

Given a choice between a diaphanous Regency gown complete with a chemise and corset, and today’s style of clothing for junior’s, I would wager (if I wagered, though I do not!) that the Regency style would be the more modest.

So there.

Regency divider

 

Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Regency Romance as well as articles on Regency Life, Homeschooling, and Self-Improvement.

She publishes a monthly eZine “Upon My Word!” which you can receive for FREE by signing up at her website [http://www.Linoreroseburkard.com/Regency_eZine.html] quickly and easily. For her latest short story check Here

Ms. Burkard graduated from the City University of New York with a Magna Cum Laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/expert/Linore_Rose_Burkard/25908

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